ESSENCE Program Helps DFCM Educators Create Scholarly Work

Apr 22, 2019

The University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) is full of talented and dedicated teachers. To ensure we’re providing the highest quality of family medicine teaching it’s important to examine our education programs and develop innovations through a scholarly lens. The Essence of Education Scholarship (ESSENCE), a year-long program, is aiming to help faculty members do this by providing them with the basic knowledge and skills in education scholarship: research and innovation in health professional education.

ESSENCE is a collaborative partnership between the Office of Education Scholarship at DFCM and the Centre for Education at North York General Hospital. The program ran throughout 2018 and consisted of a series of workshops held at North York General Hospital and mentoring initiatives. The course aimed to provide participants with the basic skills to conduct education scholarship by working with them to design and execute an education scholarship project. This was the second time the course has been run.

“There are many faculty within our department that are already doing great work in education but want to take their work to the next level,” says Dr. Rick Penciner, the Course Director of ESSENCE and an Associate Professor at DFCM and the Director of Medical Education at NYGH. “The goal of this program is to help them apply a scholarly lens to what they are often already doing.”

Dr. Penciner led a team that developed the longitudinal program after feeling that the individual faculty development workshops he had been organizing did not have the long-term impact he was hoping for. Instead, he felt that faculty needed support and training on a more ongoing basis to build capacity in education scholarship and develop the skills faculty need to produce high-quality scholarly work throughout their career.

Each ESSENCE workshop dealt with one aspect of creating an education project, from developing clear goals and a methodology, to evaluation and dissemination. Beyond the workshop, participants had a local advisor at their teaching hospital site and consultations through the Office of Education Scholarship to provide advice on how to move their project forward.

For Penciner and the other organizers, including DFCM faculty members Dr. Risa Freeman, Dr. Risa Bordman, Voula Christofilos, Dr. Bettey Onyura and Dr. Rebecca Stoller, holding the course at North York General Hospital and including participants from academic teaching hospitals sites outside of downtown Toronto was a major priority.

“It can be difficult for many of our community-based teachers to participate in face-to-face courses as they often are held in downtown Toronto,” says Penciner. “We wanted to provide opportunities for faculty at our community-based teaching sites. In the end, we had 16 participants from nine different hospitals, including Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, Southlake Hospital, Trillium Health Partners, The Scarborough Hospital and others.”

By the end of the course, participants were part of an education scholarship community and had nearly full-formed projects to continue to work on and disseminate.

“It was incredible to watch the projects progress,” says Penciner. “At the last class all the participants shared where they are at with their projects and did a debrief of what they learned. It was really amazing to hear them speak about how impactful the course was.”

Dr. Risa Freeman, Vice Chair, Education at DFCM and a senior advisor for the ESSENCE course, says the course is a key part of the Office of Education Scholarship strategic plan.

“I’m very proud to be part of this course,” says Dr. Freeman. “The goal was to bring faculty development and education scholarship to community-based programs and I think we really succeeded.”